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UN, world leaders, others agree on actions to push habitat agenda

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam
17 February 2020   |   4:33 am
World leaders, governments and other participants at the Tenth Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF10), which drew to a close last week...

Polish city of Katowice to organise World Urban Forum in 2022

World leaders, governments and other participants at the Tenth Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF10), which drew to a close last week, agreed to elevate actions and commitments that will ensure a better future for cities and towns.

They also made a clarion call on governments for reduction of risks in urban areas, in coherence with the New Urban Agenda (NUA), the Sendai Framework, Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda, in order to save lives and livelihoods.

“We encourage stronger commitments to safeguarding cultural heritage and finding related innovative solutions to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sustainable Development Goals, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Paris Agreement, the New Urban Agenda and other global frameworks.”

The governments reiterated their commitments to support the implementation of the NUA, particularly with regard to innovation and culture to help achieve liveable, inclusive, prosperous and resilient cities and communities.

The participants further recognised that an increasingly urbanised world constitutes a transformative force, which can be harnessed and steered for more sustainable development.

According to them, cities have the opportunity to take the lead to plan and design as well as manage transitions towards inclusion, resilience, sustainability, economic growth and shared prosperity.

At the same time, cities are addressing many global challenges including poverty, gender inequalities, human rights violations, unemployment, health emergencies, loss of social cohesion, threat to cultural heritage and cultural diversity, environmental degradation, migration, disaster risk and climate change.

“We also believe that cities are incubators of social, economic, environmental, political and cultural progress. They are equally the guardians of cultural heritage and identity which must be safeguarded to pass on to future generations. Subnational and local governments play an integral role in enhancing the diversity of urban life, through the adoption of rights-­‐based approaches to cities and, in particular, with the promotion of gender equality and equal access to opportunities for all.

“They provide solutions for decent work, housing, and transport, the provision of basic cultural services such as libraries, tangible and living heritage, and community centres and adopt inclusive, accessible, and transparent participatory processes.”

In the 10-page ‘Abu Dhabi Declared Actions’, the forum recognized the need for an integrated approach to the implementation of the New Urban Agenda by all levels of government and by various stakeholders. This includes enhanced coordination and coherence supported by institutional, social and technological innovations which protect tangible and intangible cultural heritage. “This is crucial for the achievement of urban development and the overall prosperity of cities and human settlements.”

Under the new action plan, the private sector pledged to supporting the development of an Inclusive City Index 2030 in partnership with public and private sector to measure inclusion and accessibility in cities.

They agreed to set up venture capital funding and embracing an approach to financing urban development. By 2030, local governments can draw from a selection of financing mechanisms to achieve SDGs and increase their opportunities and overall sustainability.

The sector is also working towards ensuring that the specific and strategic infrastructures, most needed for the realization of the SDGs, are identified and coupled with appropriate financing

Earlier, UN-Habitat Executive Director Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif told delegates at the closing ceremony that during the six-day Forum, delegates from all walks of life had highlighted the need for a common legacy of a better world for future generations.

She noted that the tenth session of the World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi had achieved a remarkable number of milestones.“All of you know that in terms of numbers, quality presentations, gender balance amongst the speakers, the quality of the exhibitions, the integrated spaces and the opportunities for chance encounters, WUF10 has set a new benchmark in this urban Olympiad,” she said.

“Actions as you know, speak louder than words and change must begin at home. Our Strategic Plan 2020-2023 and the Flagship Programmes represent our aspirations and will equip us to help Member States, local governments and communities to take up the call to action for sustainable urban development. I call on Member States to integrate the urban dimension in their development plans, and to help us raise the necessary resources to deliver on our commitments,” she said.

Ms. Sharif emphasized that SDG 11 is where all of the SDGs converge for safe, sustainable and inclusive development, noting with satisfaction that through the Abu Dhabi Declared Actions, we now have the what, how and when components.

“It is heartening to know that in the UAE, great efforts are being made to plant thousands of trees to off-set the carbon footprint of our gathering. The UAE is one of the most generous countries, helping where they can and where there is greatest urgency and need,” she said.

The innovative SDG Cities Flagship Programme and the City Investment Facility were very well-received at WUF 10 and UN-Habitat is ready to expand its role as a bridge-builder linking financing with cities to ensure that plan-led development contributes holistically, leaving no one behind.

An economic model based upon the SDGs will not be easy to implement, but as we have heard from local and regional governments, women’s and grassroots groups, business, youth assemblies, we must do things differently if we want to leave a positive legacy for future generations.

“As we work towards reporting on our accomplishments at the eleventh session of the World Urban Forum, allow me to say to the Government of Poland and the city of Katowice that UN-Habitat is ready to work closely with you in the very near future,” she assured the hosts of WUF 11, taking the opportunity to announce that expression of interest to host the Twelfth session of the World Urban Forum was officially open.

In a video message to the participants, the President of the United Nations General Assembly Mr. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande commended the UAE and UN-Habitat for organizing and hosting the Forum, one of the first United Nations events marking the milestone Decade of Action and Delivery for Sustainable Development.

“Culture and innovation are key to providing opportunities for decent work, reducing poverty, promoting climate action, fostering innovation and promoting socially cohesive, peaceful, resilient and inclusive societies,” he said. He noted that as cities become more diverse, culture plays a crucial role in fostering respect for human rights, peaceful coexistence and tolerance.

“We must continue to implement the New Urban Agenda as one of the most important blueprints for achieving SDG 11 in our cities,” he concluded.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Mr. Mukhisa Kituyi highlighted the need to take stock of progress made towards achieving the goals set out in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Paris Agreement, the New Urban Agenda and other global frameworks.

“We have fallen behind and as the Secretary–General has proclaimed the Decade of Action, we must look at what we have done right, review the normative background and reject the forces against multilateral action,” said Mr. Kituyi.

Congratulating the hosts and UN-Habitat on the success of the Forum, the Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on preparations to mark the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the United Nations Mr. Fabrizio Hochschild Drummond said coming from New York where it is not always easy to be optimistic about the state of the multilateralism or global cooperation, “it is truly encouraging and inspirational to be here and to witness the level of idealism linked to practical reflection and lessons learnt.”

The President of the UN-Habitat Assembly and Under Secretary of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of Mexico, Ms. Martha Delgado who co-chaired the Advisory Group responsible for drawing up the final Abu Dhabi Declared Actions said they had listened to participants’ thoughts, wishes and aspirations.

The Abu Dhabi Declared Actions which were presented to the delegates include commitments from international organizations, national, local and regional governments, the private sector, civil society, academia and other stakeholders towards supporting efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by world leaders in 2015.

United Nations Resident Coordinator for the UAE Dr. Dena Assaf said the Forum has been widely recognized as an outstanding success where thousands of delegates shared ideas, best practices and innovative solutions to some of the most challenging problems facing cities today.

“We are pleased to support the UAE in knowledge and capacity transfer to other countries. The high participation from the UAE and excellent speakers clearly demonstrates the UAE has rich experience to share and is a true leader in innovation and solutions,” she said.

The representative of the Latin American Network of Persons with Disabilities and their Families Mr. Henry Murillo Salazar said that since Habitat III in Quito, and WUF 9 in Kuala Lumpur, there have been more visible efforts to address all forms of discrimination, and place the needs of people with disabilities on equal terms. However, he noted that much remains be done.

Announcing that the next World Urban Forum (WUF) in 2022 would be held in Katowice, Poland the UN-Habitat Executive Director noted it would be the first time for the Forum to be held in Central Eastern Europe.

The Minister of Development Funds and Regional Policy of the Republic of Poland Ms. Malgorzata Jarosinska-Jedynak invited delegates to WUF 11 to witness the urban transformation that has taken place in Central Eastern Europe over the last thirty years.

“In Katowice we want to talk about just transformational changes that leave no one behind. It will be a historic event,” she said.